Pressing for progress in STEM: Celebrating women leaders

Pressing for progress in STEM: Celebrating women leaders
by Laura Wheeler
Director of External Communications, Clarivate Analytics

International Women’s Day (IWD) offers an opportunity to discuss global issues around women in the workplace. It also provides an ample platform to raise issues around gender diversity and to discuss solutions with many stakeholders. The message should be clear that achieving equality benefits us all as diversity leads to stronger business results, as countless studies have shown.

It can, however, be difficult to solve problems that we don’t see or understand clearly. That’s why this annual celebration is crucial in helping to dissect and explain prominent issues, broadening the debate to include a wider audience. For instance, in some cases, men may not fully grasp the barriers that actually hold women back at work. As a result, they are less committed to gender diversity, and of course, without male allies, attempts to effect change are hindered.

“As a woman working at the intersection of technology and science, I have quite a useful bird’s eye view.”

Aside from my own anecdotes having worked in male dominated environments, the evidence indicates that there are more women entering the science arena, and, while this is encouraging, the real challenges begin as they attempt to move up the career ladder. For women working in technology, however, the situation is even more dire – there are too few women entering the field in the first place.

Gartner ran a Chief Information Officer (CIO) Agenda report on: “A Perspective on the Priorities of Women and Men.” The report showed that the percentage of women CIOs in technology has remained largely the same since 2004. According to research from PWC’s 2017 report titled: “Women in Tech: Time to close the gender gap,” only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women. The 2017 “The Global Gender Gap Index” report introduced by the World Economic Forum states that women are strongly under-represented in Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction and Information, Communication and Technology.

Even more telling, according to the 2017 “Women in the Workplace” report, many employees of companies with only a few female leaders still think women are well represented in leadership. As this then becomes the norm, management are unlikely to feel any urgency for change. But indicative of the stats, clearly something does need to happen. One example that shows the scale of the problem; nearly 50 percent of men think women are well represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders are women.

“50 percent of men think women are well represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders are women.”

Does this problem stem from the challenges of recruiting girls earlier on? Or are there also issues with promotion bias, or a lack of female role models? According to further research highlighted in PWC’s report, 78% of students can’t name a famous female working in technology. So perhaps the issues do start early on.

These disappointing statistics need to change. But the only way we will see real change is with action. Results such as these show that more women in tech roles need to be celebrated and showcased, especially to the younger generations. Hopefully this can encourage an increase in the pipeline of women entering into tech roles so we can move towards equilibrium.

However, there is some good news too, as the “Women in the Workplace” report shows that more companies are committing to gender equality. But progress will remain slow unless we confront blind spots on diversity – particularly regarding employee perceptions of the status quo.

So what can companies do to address these issues? At Clarivate Analytics, we will be participating in this year’s International Women’s Day call to #PressforProgress by raising the profiles of female leaders both internally and as part of a global public awareness campaign.

“At Clarivate Analytics – we invite you to join us for a very special International Women’s Day blog series profiling the female scientists, inventors, researchers, and corporate leaders featured in Web of Science, Derwent, BioWorld, and Publons.”

Here are a few other suggestions for companies seeking to promote gender equality in the workplace:

  • Create an open and safe forum for discussion around these issues. Deal with any issues head on and in a transparent way.
  • Support male colleagues in becoming allies – offer training where relevant.
  • Showcase talent wherever possible – offer up real role models and mentors.
  • Offer relevant training for managers around these issues so they know how to offer the best support.
  • Give female employees opportunities to interact regularly with senior leaders.
  • Offer career advice and support for women who want it, including advice from senior leaders on how to advance.

If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that invests in female leadership engagement campaigns like the ones mentioned, I urge you to join in the celebrations. Or why not create your own? If you want to be inspired in the meantime, take a look at our blog series and follow our online campaign using #WomenAtClarivate.

 

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